Pink Heart Society columnist Barb Han is talking about how writing doesn't always command the respect it deserves...
Over the weekend, I met up with my newly divorced sister-in-law for lunch. Granted, she lives in another state and we hardly see other. Also, she’s never once asked what I do for a living. Even so, one sister lives nearby, the family talks and I’d assumed that she knew when I left my corporate news and feature writing job more than a decade ago that I’d done so to seriously pursue a career writing fiction.
So, it came as quite a shock when, over her tamales and my grilled chicken and vegetable lunch, she looked at me blankly and asked if I’d gotten a job.
In her defense, the conversation up to that point had been all about her. She’s been through a lot of changes in the past year since her husband surprised her with the announcement that they were divorcing. The news had come out of the blue for her and had been devastating. A lot has changed in the past year. She’s accepted a job in California, which has always been her favorite state, and is moving next summer. She loves the people at her new job. She has started wearing makeup. She seems more at peace with herself. She’s open, ready for the next adventure and to see what life brings.
Her transformation has been amazing and I’m genuinely happy for her. I wish we could see that same makeover in people’s attitudes toward working fiction writers and I’ll start with hers.
My husband’s family is a lively, animated bunch around the table and often times you have to shout to be heard. I’m more of the quiet observer type. I usually talk to the kids rather than vie for adult attention. It has never bothered me. I actually like young people.
Still, I’d been operating under the assumption that my in-laws knew what I did for a living. So, over the course of lunch when I mentioned that I’d gone back to work on Friday (following Thanksgiving break here in America), she looked at me, shocked, and asked if I’d gotten a job. I told her that I’ve always had one, that I’m a writer. Her reply was, “Oh. That. You work from home, right?”
I said that I did. And then she shocked again with the comment, “Oh. I thought you meant like a job. You know, one with a stressful commute. Working from home is different.” And then she dismissed my career as a hobby that I make a little money from on the side. My response was something like, “I don’t work like a hobby, I work like the USA TODAY Bestselling author that I am. One who has six books coming out next year.”
Yeah, I was defensive.
The ironic thing is that I know she didn’t mean to insult me or my profession. She actually likes me. She breezed past my comment and refocused on how she’s recently taken up paddle boarding. My husband was there and he looked at me with a mix of apology and embarrassment. In the car, he shook his head and said, “That has always been your struggle, hasn’t it. People thinking that you sit around all day doing nothing and write a little bit when you finally feel inspired.”
When we got home and told our kids what had happened, they laughed. Hysterically. They, along with my husband have been by my side through all the joys and heartache. They’ve supported me through long days that stretched into nights and weekends. They’ve been on this journey every step of the way, cheering with each success. And maybe that’s the best that I can hope for. That everyone who really knows me realizes how hard writers actually work.
This morning when my teenager left for school, he stopped at the door and said, “Have fun not working today, Mom.”
I retorted, “Don’t learn anything in school today, either.”
And, you know, that was enough for me.
What about you? Have you had friends or family question the legitimacy of writing as a career? Join the debate in the comments.
Barb's latest book, Texas Takedown, is out now:
He’s facing trouble as big—and unpredictable—as the Texas terrain
For security expert Dylan Jacobs, his little daughter is a light against the shadows of his past. But when the sexy ex-soldier locates missing Samantha Turner, the shadows return. Samantha is convinced their childhood nemesis—the Mason Ridge Abductor—is back. And that he’s hunting her.
Amid a hail of gunfire, Dylan commits to keeping Samantha safe—then nearly crumbles when his own child disappears. So when the villain poses a vicious ultimatum—turn over the woman he loves or never see his beloved toddler again—Dylan knows what he has to do. Put plan B into action.